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Allan

Hotelier buys aging Pontch

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hotelier buys aging Pontch

Shubh LLC plans major renovations. Partners will seek major affiliation.

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The 413-room Pontchartrain was running at between 45 percent and 50 percent occupancy. It has suffered from declining bookings.

By R.J. King / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- The 40-year-old Hotel Pontchartrain in downtown Detroit, scheduled to be sold at auction next month, was purchased by Shubh Hotel Detroit LLC Tuesday for an undisclosed price.

The 413-room hotel next to Cobo Center has suffered in recent years from declining bookings and the lack of a major hotel affiliation, a key component in drawing customers. The new owners plan a renovation and are seeking to operate the hotel under the Sheraton or Hilton name, said Sanjay Patel, principal of Shubh Hotel Detroit LLC in Detroit.

"We saw the purchase of the Hotel Pontchartrain as a great opportunity," said Patel. "We are looking at renovating the hotel, but we haven't figured out the costs. Its location next to Cobo Center was a major plus."

Patel, along with his partner, Atul Bisaria, own three hotels in Florida, New York and Nebraska. He said Hotel Pontchartrain was running at between 45 percent and 50 percent occupancy. "We plan to renovate the rooms, corridors, lobby, elevators, everything," Patel said.

The Hotel Pontchartrain is considered a key component in the city's efforts to renovate and expand Cobo Center, Detroit's main convention facility. Last week, the Tourism Economic Development Council in Detroit, a nonprofit planning group, released a $663 million plan to add a third more exhibit space at Cobo Center, which offers 700,000 square feet of convention space.

The plan, which has not been funded, was undertaken to accommodate demand for more exhibit space by the annual North American International Auto Show and SAE World Congress, to be held next month.

Planners say the expansion, scheduled to be completed by 2010, would also help draw other conventions to Cobo Center.

"We plan to work with the new owners of the Hotel Pontchartrain to help them draw more customers and look at ways to enhance both the hotel and Cobo Center," said George W. Jackson Jr., president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a nonprofit development agency in Detroit.

The hotel, built in 1965, was previously owned by Highgate Holdings Inc. in Irvine, Texas. The hotel was recently returned to its creditor, GE Capital, said John Bippus, a spokesman for Tranzon Bippus, an auction service in Three Rivers, Mich., that had been hired to sell the lodge next month.

Patel said he was not planning to expand the hotel anytime soon. The facility can accommodate a second tower.

"That's down the road and I can't say whether we will expand or not," Patel said.

Once a premiere hotel in downtown, the Pontchartrain boasts a sawtooth design that allows a river view in each and every room. The "top of the Pontch" was the in place for Detroit society, Motown stars, athletes and entertainers.

You can reach R.J. King at (313) 222-2504 or [email protected]

Hotel Pontchartrain

Built: 1965

Rooms: 413 rooms

Height: 25 stories

Meeting rooms: 13 rooms offering a combined 13,450 square feet of space

Amenities: Restaurant, bar, penthouse banquet center, 168-space parking garage

Famous guests: Boxer Muhammad Ali, comic Marty Allen, astronaut Walter Cunningham, concert pianist Andre Watts

Past performers: Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rich

Original owners: Aaron, Samuel and William Gershenson

Future expansion: The hotel can accommodate another tower Source: www.tranzon.com

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I don't really mind it that much architecturally, but I really hate the concrete block surrounding the base (a parking garage?) It should've been right on the street, but it seems isolated instead. Anyhow, I hope the renovations go as planned.

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I agree with Aaron. If not for the base, the building wouldn't be that bad. It's no Guardian Building, but it's better than a lot of other buildings downtown, like that Holiday Inn on Washington Boulevard.

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This good news for the Pontch one of the city's more distinctive buildings. In a city know for it's pre-WWII buildingd Detroit actually has some pretty nice modernist pieces, if weren't for that god-awful block the Pontch would be a great building. I just hope they don't drop the Pontchartrain name if they get an affiliation.

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